By ALANA PERSSON, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — The adage "age does not define beauty" is embodied by two New Hampshire women who are current competitors for the Ms. Senior America pageant held in Atlantic City this October, a pageant for women over 60.
Last week, Carolyn Cottrell of Manchester and Fran Owens, formerly of Salem, met at the Lakes Region Public Access television headquarters at Laconia High School for a preview recording of what is to occur at nationals. The video is due to appear on Channel 25 in the upcoming weeks, featuring a preview of the contestants' talents, philosophy of life and crowning for their state titles.
Entering her fourth pageant to date, Owens is feeling confident and honored to represent New Hampshire at a national level. As a professional musician, Owens has traveled around the country pursuing a career in entertainment, which eventually led her to Salem and Nashua, where she raised her children. Continuing to travel and perform around the country in her later years, Owen's never expected that she would enter pageantry after the age of 60; however, her decision to pursue this hobby has allowed her to expand her music business, and has helped her continue to grow as a person.
"Since starting pageants," she said, "I have gone from a show girl to understanding the dignity and elegance from being a queen." Although the competition is fierce, she said there is much support and encouragement from everyone who participates.
The encouragement and camaraderie could be seen in the recording studio, as Owens was accompanied by contestant Cottrell, who will be representing the state of West Virginia this year as a contestant at large. Cottrell had not had any experience in pageantry prior to the Ms. Senior America competition. Rather, for the past 21 years, Cottrell has taught dentistry at TUFTS University in Boston, with prior experience in private practice including work done with incarcerated youth and in Saudi Arabia. Cottrell hopes that her past career partnered with her present pursuit of pageants will her inspire other women to express their talents and wisdom on a larger scale.
"This is a great way to showcase that women over 60 years of age are still talented, capable, and can give a lot back to their community. I hope more people continue to get involved," said Cottrell.
Any woman over the age of 60 is able to take part in the Ms. Senior America annual pageant. Through the pageant, women are able to volunteer in communities, speak publicly and share a talent. The talents participants choose can be anything from a narration of women in history as Cottrell intends to do; singing, as Owens will showcase; or oxen therapy, as a past New Hampshire nominee who was selected to go to nationals demonstrated. If crowned Ms. Senior America, winners are able to travel to state pageants and publicly speak about the pageant to women around the country.
Kathy Salintro of Gilford, the state winner of the Ms. Senior America in 2011 and current state director for the pageant, hopes that next year more participants will come forward so a pageant can be held for the region. The state is currently lacking the necessary money to put on a full pageant, and is seeking sponsorship and additional volunteers.
"Both men and women of all ages are welcome to get involved in the organization, we are always looking for additional board members and help to make this event possible," said Salintro, encouraging people to visit www.nhsenioramerica.org to find out ways to become involved.
Carolyn Cottrell of Manchester is to represent West Virginia, and Fran Owens, formerly of Salem, is to represent New Hampshire in the upcoming Ms. Senior America competition this fall. (Alana Persson/Laconia Daily Sun)
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